Jill Lepore

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Jill Lepore
Jill Lepore for the Library of Congress.jpg
Lepore in 2020
AwardsBancroft Prize (1999)
Academic background
Alma materTufts University
University of Michigan
Yale University
Academic work
InstitutionsHarvard University
Boston University
University of California, San Diego

Jill Lepore is an American historian. She is the David Woods Kemper ’41 Professor of American History at Harvard University[1] and a staff writer at The New Yorker, where she has contributed since 2005. She writes about American history, law, literature, and politics.

Her essays and reviews have also appeared in The New York Times, The Times Literary Supplement, The Journal of American History, Foreign Affairs, the Yale Law Journal, The American Scholar, and the American Quarterly. Three of her books derive from her New Yorker essays: The Mansion of Happiness: A History of Life and Death (2012), a finalist for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction; The Story of America: Essays on Origins (2012), shortlisted for the PEN Literary Award for the Art of the Essay; and The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party's Revolution and the Battle for American History (2010). Lepore's The Secret History of Wonder Woman (2014) won the 2015 American History Book Prize.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Lepore was born and grew up in West Boylston, a small town outside Worcester, Massachusetts.[3] Her father was a junior high school principal and her mother was an art teacher.[4] Lepore had no early desire to become a historian but claims to have wanted to be a writer from the age of six. She began her college education with a Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) scholarship at Tufts University,[5] starting as a math major. Eventually she left ROTC and changed her major to English.[6] She earned her B.A. in English in three years.[5]

After graduating from Tufts, Lepore had a temporary job working as a secretary at the Harvard Business School[7] before returning to school. She received an M.A. in American Culture from the University of Michigan in 1990 and a Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University in 1995, where she specialized in the history of early America.[8]


Lepore taught at the University of California-San Diego from 1995 to 1996 and at Boston University beginning in 1996; she started at Harvard in 2003.[9][10] In addition to her books and articles on history, in 2008 Lepore published a historical novel, Blindspot, co-written with Jane Kamensky, then a history professor at Brandeis University and now Professor of History and Pforzheimer Foundation Director of the Schlesinger Library at Harvard University. Previously, Lepore and Kamensky had co-founded an online history journal called Common-place.[6] Lepore is now a history professor at Harvard University, where she holds an endowed chair and teaches American political history. She focuses on missing evidence in historical records and articles.[11]

Lepore gathers historical evidence that allows scholars to study and analyze political processes and behaviors. Her articles are often both historical and political. She has said, "History is the art of making an argument about the past by telling a story accountable to evidence."[12]

Lepore has been contributing to The New Yorker since 2005.[13] She posts a bibliography with sources for some of her New Yorker articles on her website. In the June 23, 2014 issue she sharply criticized disruption theory, calling it "founded on panic, anxiety, and shaky evidence".[14] The response of one of those whose work she discusses, fellow Harvard professor Clayton M. Christensen, was that her article was "a criminal act of dishonesty—at Harvard, of all places".[15]

From 2011 to 2013, Lepore was a visiting scholar of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. She has delivered Theodore H. White Lecture on the Press and Politics at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government (2015), the John L. Hatfield Lecture at Lafayette College (2015), the Lewis Walpole Library Lecture at Yale (2013), the Harry F. Camp Memorial Lecture at Stanford (2013), the University of Kansas Humanities Lecture (2013), the Joanna Jackson Goldman Memorial Lectures at the New York Public Library (2012), the Kephardt Lecture at Villanova (2011), the Stafford-Little Lecture at Princeton (2010), and the Walker Horizon Lecture at DePauw (2009). She is the president of the Society of American Historians and an Emeritus Commissioner of the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery. She has been a consultant and contributor to documentary and public history projects. Her three-part story "The Search for Big Brown" was broadcast on The New Yorker Radio Hour in 2015.

In 2020, Lepore included an incorrect claim in an article in The New Yorker stating two-thirds of emergency-room visits by those between the ages of fifteen and thirty-four were the result of injuries inflicted by police and security guards.[16] The New Yorker subsequently corrected the article.[17]

Selected awards and honors[edit]


  • The Name of War: King Philip's War and the Origins of American Identity. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 1998. ISBN 9780679446866.
  • Encounters in the New World: A History in Documents. New York: Oxford University Press. 2000. ISBN 9780195105131.
  • A is for American: Letters and Other Characters in the Newly United States. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 2002. ISBN 9780375404498.
  • New York Burning: Liberty, Slavery, and Conspiracy in Eighteenth-century Manhattan. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 2005. ISBN 9781400040292.
  • The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party's Revolution and the Battle Over American History. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. 2010. ISBN 9780691150277.
  • The Mansion of Happiness: A History of Life and Death. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 2012. ISBN 9780307592996.
  • The Story of America: Essays on Origins. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. 2012. ISBN 9780691153995.
  • Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 2013. ISBN 9780307958341.
  • The Secret History of Wonder Woman. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 2014. ISBN 9780385354042.[21]
  • Joe Gould's Teeth. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 2016. ISBN 9781101947586.
  • These Truths: A History of the United States. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. 2018. ISBN 9780393635249.
  • This America: The Case for the Nation. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. 2019. ISBN 9781631496417.
  • If Then: How the Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future. Liveright. 2020.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Biography". Retrieved 5 June 2017.
  2. ^ a b Schuessler, Jennifer (February 17, 2015). "A Book Prize for Wonder Woman". ArtsBeat. The New York Times. Retrieved July 4, 2019.
  3. ^ Schuessler, Jennifer (September 16, 2018). "Jill Lepore on Writing the Story of America (in 1,000 Pages or Less)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 4, 2019.
  4. ^ Silber, Maia (March 6, 2014). "Jill Lepore: A Historian's History". www.thecrimson.com. Harvard Crimson. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  5. ^ a b Mari, Francesca (Spring 2013). "The Microhistorian". Dissent Magazine. Retrieved 2019-07-04.
  6. ^ a b "The Public Historian - A Conversation with Jill Lepore". Humanities Magazine. September–October 2009.
  7. ^ "Jill Lepore". Tufts Now. May 2, 2014. Retrieved July 4, 2019.
  8. ^ a b c "Jill Lepore", Faculty, Harvard University, accessed 12 Oct 2010.
  9. ^ "Jill Lepore". Harvard Open Scholar. Retrieved 19 March 2015.
  10. ^ Lepore, Jill (1999). The Name of War. Vintage. pp. Preface. ISBN 978-0375702624.
  11. ^ "Biography". Harvard University. Harvard University. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  12. ^ Lepore, Jill (2014). Story of America : essays on origins. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. p. 15. ISBN 9780691159591.
  13. ^ "The New Yorker - Contributors". The New Yorker. Retrieved 19 March 2015.
  14. ^ "The Disruption Machine". The New Yorker. Retrieved 24 June 2014.
  15. ^ "Clayton Christensen Responds to New Yorker Takedown of 'Disruptive Innovation'". Bloomberg. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
  16. ^ "New Yorker Writer Falsely Claims Two-Thirds of Emergency Room Visits Result from Police Violence". July 21, 2020.
  17. ^ Lepore, Jill. "The Invention of the Police". The New Yorker.
  18. ^ Schuessler, Jennifer (April 23, 2014). "A new class of American Fellows". Arts Beat Blog. The New York Times. Retrieved 19 March 2015.
  19. ^ "Lukas Prizes: Past Winners and Jurors - Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism". www.journalism.columbia.edu. Archived from the original on 2015-12-22. Retrieved 2016-04-05.
  20. ^ "APS Member History". search.amphilsoc.org. Retrieved 2021-03-12.
  21. ^ Garner, Dwight (October 23, 2014). "Books - Her Past Unchained 'The Secret History of Wonder Woman,' by Jill Lepore". New York Times. Retrieved October 23, 2014.

External links[edit]